EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three Mobile have all been ranked and rated in a new study looking at the best mobile providers in the country. The research, conducted by RootMetrics, is based on over 650,000 tests carried out in the second half of last year, using Samsung 5G handsets bought from relevant stores to test both 4G and 5G network performance. And, once again, it’s EE who has come out trumps, besting rivals O2, Vodafone and Three.

EE was praised as being the “standard bearer” in the UK mobile network arena, boasting average media download speeds of 60.4Mbps, which is over twice as fast as those offered by any other rival service.

The RootMetrics study in total analysed seven specific performance categories for each network, including accessibility and reliability. And in six out of the seven areas analysed, EE was the outright winner – and was a shared winner along with Vodafone in calls performance.

The Q2 2021 study also marked the the ninth consecutive test period where EE ranked first for overall performance, reliability, speed, as well as data, call, and text performance.

Vodafone was the runner up in the study, followed by O2 and then Three Mobile.

Describing the level of service EE offers, the RootMetrics study said: “Delivering consistently fast speeds and great results in general, EE remained the operator to beat in 2H 2021.

“EE earned by far the most RootScore Awards across the entire UK, within the nations, and in major cities. EE also continued to provide users with an excellent combination of widespread 5G availability plus fast 5G speeds.”

In terms of other providers, Vodafone saw their first-place ties in the reliability and text performances categories for the Q1 2021 RootMetrics study drop to second place.

However, the provider was still praised for “excellent” scores in these categories still. Overall, Vodafone ranked second in six out of the seven areas analysed, and were joint first with EE in the other one.

Third-placed O2 had consistent UK wide performances when comparing it with the Q1 2021 RootMetrics study, while Three saw gains in the level of its text performance.

Speaking about the study’s findings as a whole, RootMetrics said: “Data usage in the UK continues to explode and is showing no signs of slowing down. From gaming on the go to streaming movies and everything in between, the importance of fast and reliable mobile connectivity has never been greater.

“The good news is that 5G in the UK is expanding and providing users with impressive speeds, and all four major operators are delivering strong performances in general.”

If the findings are making you think of switch to EE, the good news is the provider is running some great money saving deals right now, including a 160GB 5G SIM for £20 a month.

EE is also throwing in a free Fitbit Sense worth £279.99 with the Google Pixel 6 flagship Android phone, and also has deals running on the Samsung Galaxy S21 line-up and Apple’s iPhones.

You can check out all the deals EE is running right now by clicking here.



That old adage, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping’, has never been more apt. 

As the latest crop of trading updates for the Christmas period from some of the UK’s biggest companies shows, the pandemic has failed to dampen the British shopper’s appetite for spending.

But what is beginning to show through in the trading results is that shoppers’ habits are changing as to how and where – and on what goods – they are spreading their incomes because of the impact of lockdowns and Covid restrictions.

As the latest trading updates for the Christmas period from some of the UK’s biggest firms shows, the pandemic has failed to dampen the British shopper’s appetite for spending

As the latest trading updates for the Christmas period from some of the UK’s biggest firms shows, the pandemic has failed to dampen the British shopper’s appetite for spending

What’s more, the companies which are doing particularly well, like Sainsbury’s, Dunelm and JD Sports, are the ones which have been quick to adapt to these changes.

To be fair, there’s luck involved too as they are already in the sectors where customers are channelling their spending, which is mainly on homes and food.

Take Sainsbury’s. It had an excellent run-up to Christmas with strong grocery sales, and notably fizzy champagne sales, reflecting how customers stocked up to feast more at home. 

Profits for the year have been upgraded accordingly. Yet at the same time, Sainsbury’s is keeping prices low, and is clearly not frightened of taking the fight straight to the heart of the German dissenters, Lidl and Aldi.

The grocer knows that keeping prices competitive and giving customers value for money is the best way to drive volume, and will continue to do so this year as the cost of living rises.

Dunelm is another to benefit from the switch. Helped by customers upgrading their homes, the home furnishings group is now upgrading its profits guidance. 

Compared to two years ago, Dunelm reports sales up a chunky 26 per cent and is forecasting £140million for the first-half of the year and a ‘material’ increase for the full-year.

Youngsters may not be spending so much going out or dressing up for parties but they are still forking out for expensive, sought-after trainers being sold by JD Sports. 

The sports chain is also putting up its profits guidance after a ‘robust’ performance and looks set to easily beat market expectations of around £810million.

It’s not often you hear such confident sentiments coming from company chief executives even in normal times, if there is such a thing. 

So it is encouraging to hear that trading so far is looking good, particularly now that the UK looks set to be one of the first countries in the world to emerge from the pandemic.

Yet the last two years will not be pain-free for many companies. Those legacy brands in the middle with city centre departments stores, such as John Lewis, Frasers Group and Marks and Spencer, will be squeezed although the likes of M&S are adapting fast, opening smaller grocery shops with a small number of ranges as an add-on.

One of the longer term shifts in spending patterns, and shopping behaviour, is that some form of ‘working from home’ is here to stay, maybe not for five days a week but certainly a couple.

That’s why online shopping is set to keep rising and why so many retailers – M&S, Greggs and even Pret A Manger – are moving out of city centres to smaller towns or retail parks to be closer to customers, many of whom will become part-time commuters. 

Analyst Susannah Streeter of Hargreaves Lansdown warns this will be a painful transition not only for legacy brands but also for the landlords of city centre properties.

Converting office space into residential is expensive and councils are notoriously slow at giving planning consent. Hopefully, they will see sense and act quickly if they want centres to survive and rates to be paid.

It’s a case of needs must.

Transitory or not

Those inflationary clouds hovering across the United States don’t look so transitory after all. Inflation has risen for the seventh month in a row to reach a whopping 7 per cent, the highest it has been for 40 years.

Price rises for energy, food, housing and new cars – up by a staggering third year-on- year – are being blamed for the jump.

While the cost of energy subsided in December – its first drop since April – food prices are still up by 6.5 per cent.

Economists say there are signs that prices are easing in some areas, such as raw materials, as supply chains recover from the bottlenecks created by the pandemic.

The Federal Reserve chief Jay Powell needs to find a more appropriate word than ‘transitory’ as well as being ultra-cautious with the timing of interest rate rises if he is to avoid tipping the US into recession.

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Spotify had promised to roll-out improved audio quality to its streaming service in some regions by the end of last year. If you’ve logged into Spotify since the new year, you’ll likely to aware that there’s still no sign of the promised CD-quality music available within the app – despite the deadline now being in the rearview mirror. Dubbed Spotify HiFi, the company has finally acknowledged the delays to its long-awaited audio boost. Speaking to gadget blog Engadget, a spokesperson for the company said: “Artists and fans have told us that HiFi quality audio is important to them. We agree, and we’re excited to deliver a Spotify HiFi experience to Premium users in the future. We don’t have timing details to share today.”

In the Community forums for the popular music streaming service, moderators for the company have shared similar updates to subscribers who had asked about the release date of the feature, which was announced almost exactly one year ago. Songs streamed via Spotify are compressed – to ensure that playing the track doesn’t take too long on a sluggish internet connection, to save subscribers from running out of 4G or 5G data allowance after a few days, and to save storage on their smartphone when downloading a song to listen offline. But while this level of compression is incredibly useful for some, others are happy to use more mobile data and sacrifice storage on their device for a superior listening experience.

Bit rate is the amount of data transferred per second and has a direct impact on sound quality. Spotify Premium subscribers can expect tracks to have a bit rate of roughly 320kbps (when set to the Very High quality setting within the app). For comparison, the same song burned onto a CD will have a bit rate of 1,411kbps. That’s more than four times the amount of data stored for the same 3-minute track. As such, it’s hardly surprising that the files are much bigger – and that the sound quality is so dramatically improved. If you’re currently listening on Spotify with the audio settings set to Normal or Low, you can expect a meagre 96- and 24kbps, respectively.

Spotify has been testing CD-quality audio performance since 2017, when a small number of US subscribers were offered the chance to listen to lossless music for an additional $7.50 a month. Spotify hasn’t revealed whether it will charge customers extra to listen to higher quality versions of their favourite tracks, albums and playlists when Spotify HiFi eventually launches.

However, the company might be forced to bundle the option for free to all paid subscribers, thanks to rival Apple Music forcing their hand.

Last summer, Apple announced that 20 million tracks in its library would support lossless audio quality, with the goal of updating its entire catalogue of 90 million tracks by the end of the year. The Cupertino-based company appears to have hit that goal, with millions of albums now available to stream in the CD-quality format. The company has also added support for Dolby Atmos across its library too – without increasing its monthly subscription prices.

Yes, for the same £9.99 a month that you’ll pay to unlock Spotify Premium, Apple Music offers an almost identical library of music – available in the superior audio quality. Of course, you’ll need the right devices to stream in this format. Apple’s popular AirPods, including the £549 AirPods Max, cannot support this boosted audio quality since they rely on Bluetooth to connect to your device, which itself compresses files. However, even when using an adapter to connect AirPods Max to the Lightning port, the CD-quality tracks cannot be played.

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Sonos is believed to be looking to add support for Lossless and Dolby Atmos audio quality from Apple Music in a future update, and those with an external DAC and some solid wired headphones will be able to listen right now for the same subscription fee. Amazon Music HD costs the same £9.99 a month as Spotify and Apple Music and offers the same improved audio experience to subscribers. Likewise, TiDAL, which kickstarted the push towards improved audio quality for streaming services, also charges £9.99 a month for access to its library in 1,411kbps.

As such, it’s hard to imagine a world where Spotify can charge more than £9.99 a month for the privilege. The company does offer a number of features not available elsewhere, including its immensely-popular Wrapped event, which tallies together your listening habits from the last year – with animations, factoids, and stats to share on social media, and its unrivalled library of podcasts – including exclusives from Joe Rogan, Last Podcast On The Left, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Emily Atack, and more.